Customers rate chain drug pharmacies highly on their convenience, the interaction with their staffs and their performance in filling prescriptions, but their prescription pricing draws far fewer accolades.


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How chain drug pharmacies rate with consumers

April 25th, 2013

NEW YORK – Customers rate chain drug pharmacies highly on their convenience, the interaction with their staffs and their performance in filling prescriptions, but their prescription pricing draws far fewer accolades.

Those are the key findings of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse survey, an online poll of 34,424 adult pharmacy customers. All survey participants had filled six or more prescriptions (including refills) within the 12 months preceding the poll.

In addition to the high ratings for most pharmacy experience touch points in chain drug, the survey revealed little change from the previous year’s results, indicating a generally even level of customer satisfaction and consistent performance. For example, 92% of customers expressed overall satisfaction (75% very satisfied) with the level of accuracy with which their prescriptions had been filled in both 2010 and 2011.

When it comes to convenience metrics, 94% were satisfied with the convenience of store locations. Given the fact that the three chains that dominate this segment of the industry all operate thousands of stores, that high figure comes as no surprise.

One area that did show improvement year over year was the time required to fill a prescription, as the percentage of those satisfied increased to 86% from 84%. The number of customers satisfied with the ability to obtain 90-day refills also saw an uptick (92% to 93%), probably reflecting the greater availability of such programs in the channel.

Chain Drug Pharmacy
Customer Experience

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The area that represents the greatest opportunity for drug chains is their prescription drug pricing. As reported in an earlier installment of this series, chain drug rated lower in satisfaction — with 71% of customers satisfied with overall pricing — than any other pharmacy channel except mail order/online, which garnered just 68%.

Only 55% of those polled expressed satisfaction with the discounts available to them on their prescription medications. However, a large bloc, 31%, were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, and only 13% expressed ­dissatisfaction.

Since 90% of the chain drug customers participating in the poll were insured and thus only paying co-pays for their prescriptions, prescription pricing is probably of significantly less importance than with customers of mass merchant pharmacies, for instance, only 76% of whom are ­insured.

In addition, the tepid pricing satisfaction scores may reflect the fact that the $4 generic drug plan pioneered by Walmart several years ago has been emulated by few drug chains. Only 43% of survey participants indicated their pharmacy offered such a service, although that figure was up five percentage points from the previous year.

Although the channel still has significant room for improvement, the year-over-year scores do, in fact, reveal improvement. For instance, the overall pricing satisfaction score of 71% represents an increase of three percentage points, while satisfaction with coupons and co-pay cards for specific prescription medications also gained three points to 72%. Satisfaction with discount or rewards card perks, meanwhile, jumped five points to 73%.

Chain Pharmacies: Services Offered

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Nonetheless, chain drug stores are at a competitive disadvantage with regard to prescription pricing. The latest iteration of Consumer Reports magazine’s annual prescription drug pricing survey, which compared prices for five widely prescribed generics, showed two of the three leading drug chains among the highest-priced ­options.

On the other hand, chain drug gets consistently high marks when it comes to the performance of its pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. No fewer than 87% of customers were content with their pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

Moreover, chain pharmacists are doing a superlative job of counseling patients: They achieved a satisfaction score of 86% on their ability to address patients’ concerns and questions, and an 89% for their in-depth conversations and counseling.

Chain pharmacists also rated highly (85%) for their ability to provide information about medications in understandable language. Somewhat surprisingly in view of the tremendous volume that many chain drug pharmacies handle, 64% of those polled were satisfied that their pharmacist knew them.

Although such materials are of limited importance to chain drug customers, satisfaction with the printed health information provided by their chain pharmacy jumped five points to 74%. Almost 60% of respondents use the materials in discussions with their doctors, while just under half (48%) used them to guide discussions with their pharmacists.

Like printed health materials, additional medical services are not overwhelmingly important to chain pharmacy patients, but their importance, and satisfaction with them, is increasing. Such services as flu shots and health screenings were rated higher in importance year over year, as were permanent medical clinics. Overall satisfaction with additional medical services jumped to 71% from 66%.

All three leading drug chains have given a high profile to these kinds of programs. Walgreen Co., for example, has just expanded the range of health care services offered by its Take Care Clinics to include chronic condition management and additional preventive health screenings. Rite Aid Corp., meanwhile, has recently extended its NowClinic Online Care services to an additional 58 locations in major Eastern markets. As a result, patients can have private consultations via secure video, chat or phone with participating doctors. For its part, CVS/pharmacy last month launched an interactive app that provides a “digital drug store experience” for iPad users.

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